The California Supreme Court as said that the warrantless search of a cell phone found on the person of the defendant at the time of arrest is not a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The officer scrolled the messages folder and found “6 4 80”, which means 6 pills for $80, which was introduced as evidence subsequent to his arrest on charges of selling ecstasy.
The court analogized other cases where drugs, weapons and other evidence was in plain sight at the time of the arrest. I think the reasoning doesn’t stand. The mere presence of the phone, absence other facts, does not suggest that it was evidence of a crime.
What if the police know I use my laptop as a phone? Scratch that- what if I just have it with me. It’s “associated with my person” at the time of arrest. Can the police search it without a warrant?
What if my phone (or laptop or iPad) is networked through the cloud to my work and personal computers (Windows Phone 7 users listen up as this capability is built-in!). Can the police log onto my computers through my phone?
What if the phone or laptop is in the back seat? Can the police seize it pursuant to arrest as being “associated with my person”
Password protect those PDAs and smart phones! Encrypt them if you can! But the opinion is silent on this issue so protection even in those circumstances is not assured.